Students, staff and coaches participate in the annual celebration, reflection and fundraising at the ninth Day of Giving on April 19, 2022. Courtesy of Communications and Marketing.

Wabash started the Day of Giving in 2014, and a question has long lingered around the corners of campus. “I go to Wabash (or I work at Wabash), so why do you want me to participate? Isn’t this just a day to get money from alumni?”

In the spirit of thinking critically, it’s a valid question.

After all, many other schools don’t ask much more of their students, faculty, staff and coaches than to appear all bright and shiny and clad in full university gear for the promo videos and on the website. Oh, maybe they’ll ask the campus community to share the hashtag on their socials.

But as we like to say, Wabash is different.

Our annual largest single-day fundraising effort doesn’t just happen virtually—well, other than in 2020 and 2021 for obvious reasons. It has evolved as a spring campus celebration that invites and involves everyone— even you.

Those two years really disrupted a great on-campus momentum on the Day of Giving, and last year that lingering question echoed more loudly as we pushed the reset button. “Reentry is hard,” has been my mantra as we have slowly emerged from the lockdowns and distancing of the worst of COVID- 19. And last year’s reentry was rocky. Our on-campus event was sparsely attended, and student giving took a nosedive. On each of the Days of Giving in 2017 through 2019, more than 800 students made a gift. Last year, that number was just 457.

Reentry is hard indeed, and I say this not as an indictment of my dedicated team, but with my hand hoisted high in the air claiming responsibility. So let’s reset and follow noted speaker Simon Sinek’s advice by “starting with why.”

So here’s why you should make a gift on the Day of Giving.

First, Wabash (being different) defines an alumnus as anyone who has completed two semesters of coursework. By comparison, U.S. News & World Report counts only graduates as alumni. So by our standards, about 70% of current students can count toward our alumni donor percentage with just one gift of any amount for anything.

For every 120 alumni who give, we move up one percentage point. So, upperclassmen are worth about five points on our overall alumni giving percentage. Wabash has a streak of nine straight years with 40% or more. (Last year, DPU did cartwheels when they finally reached 20% again.)

Why does the alumni giving percentage matter? By achieving 40% of alumni giving in the last fiscal year, Wabash ranked fifth among all national liberal arts colleges, which was our highest ranking ever. Imagine how many more spots we might’ve climbed if we had hit 100% student giving in the 2021-2022 school year, which would have put that percentage at 43.3%.

If you attended the Chapel Talk delivered by Trustee Chris Braun ’81 in November, you heard him recall growing up as the middle child, the sixth of 12 kids. You may also remember his gratitude for the Wabash degree he earned as a first-generation student. Then, he issued a challenge to the entire campus: For every contribution of any amount made by any student, faculty, and staff to the Annual Fund by June 30, 2023, he will give $20 to the Annual Fund.

That’s one really good reason to give. Here’s another.

Ahead of next Wednesday, my colleagues in Advancement have lined up a group of Wabash leaders who will give $510,000 when we meet a goal of 5,010 gifts. In a true Wabash way, that means that any gift of any amount has an equal chance of helping us earn that tidy sum.

Also, each living unit, every sport, most clubs, many alumni classes, and even some academic departments are issuing challenges to their groups. Members of the Wabash community are issuing challenges to honor faculty and staff, first-generation, and international students. A gift to these challenges unlocks even more money from those who want to improve and enhance your experience here—and also helps get us to that 5,010 gift goal.

So I invite you to join us next Wednesday, April 19, as we celebrate what’s so special about this place and how your experience on campus now still resonates with those who once studied here. Please join us in ensuring that an unparalleled liberal arts education, our cherished traditions, and the relationships we treasure are part of the Wabash experience then, now, and always.